According to Al-Jazeera, The Russian president may not deploy nuclear weapons, but there are a few possibilities that could happen.
Deep debate over how the West would react has been ignited by President Vladimir Putin’s veiled threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine if Russian “territorial integrity” is threatened.
On Wednesday, the Russian president declared a partial military mobilization that would send about 300,000 reserve personnel to fight in Ukraine. He also stated he was not lying about using nuclear weapons if Russian territories were endangered.
This is not a bluff, Putin said, adding, “Those who are trying to extort us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also change in their direction.”
Putin’s willingness to be the first to use nuclear weapons since the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 has not persuaded analysts.
In an interview with AFP, a number of academics and officials discussed the potential outcomes in the event that Russia launches a nuclear assault.
What would the effects of a Russian nuclear strike be?
According to analysts, Moscow would probably use one or more “tactical” nuclear bombs.
The explosive strength of tactical nukes, which ranges from 0.3 to 100 kilotons, is tiny compared to the 1.2 megatons of the heaviest US strategic warhead or the 58 megaton bomb Russia detonated in 1961.
Comparatively speaking, tactical bombs are meant to have less impact on the battlefield than strategic nuclear weapons, which are made to wage and win all-out battles.
Small and limited, however, are relative terms: Only 15 kilotons of nuclear energy were included in the deadly atomic bomb the US detonated on Hiroshima in 1945.
What might Moscow have in mind?
According to analysts, Russia’s intention in using a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine is to divide the Western allies of the nation and terrify it into submission to discussions or surrender.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington’s Mark Cancian, a military specialist, predicted that Russia would not likely utilize nuclear weapons in battle.
Multiple nuclear bombs might be needed to capture 20 miles (32 km) of area, which would be a tiny gain compared to the enormous risks associated with using nuclear weapons and radioactive fallout.
Cancian declared that using one will not be sufficient.
Instead, Moscow might send a clear message while minimizing victims by dropping a nuclear bomb over the ocean or high over Ukraine to produce an electromagnetic pulse that would disable electrical devices.
Putin might even decide to strike a Ukrainian military post or a major city, causing a large number of deaths and perhaps even the death of the government.
According to a former White House nuclear policy expert named Jon Wolfsthal, such scenarios “would likely be meant to shatter the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) alliance and global consensus against Putin.”
It’s unclear whether it would be successful, and it might come across as being more desperate than determined, he added.
How should the West react to this?
The options are difficult, and the West hasn’t made it clear how it would react to a tactical nuclear strike.
In the face of an implied nuclear threat, the US and NATO do not want to come out as being frightened. However, they would also want to prevent the risk that the conflict in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, may spread and turn into a terrible global nuclear war.
According to experts, in the event of a Russian nuclear assault, the West would have no choice but to reply. This response, however, should come from NATO as a whole rather than just the US.
About 100 tactical nuclear weapons owned by the US have been placed in NATO nations, and they are ready to retaliate in kind against Russian forces.
According to Matthew Kroenig of the Atlantic Council, the threat of retaliation would show resolve and serve as a reminder to Moscow of the peril associated with its conduct.
He added that this might “could lead to a Russian nuclear retaliation, increasing the possibility of a broader nuclear exchange and greater humanitarian catastrophe.”
A nuclear reaction could be rejected by some NATO members, which would help Putin’s efforts to erode the alliance.
Should more potent weaponry be handed to Ukraine?
Experts contend that it may be more beneficial to respond to a nuclear assault in a more traditional military or diplomatic manner and to outfit Ukraine with more potent weapons so that it may attack Russia.
According to Kroenig, “Russian nuclear use might present an opening to persuade countries that have up until now been hesitant – such as India and perhaps even China – to cooperate in intensifying sanctions.”
The US may also provide Ukraine with NATO aircraft, Patriot and THAAD anti-missile batteries, and ATACMS long-range missiles that Ukraine forces might employ to launch attacks deep within Russia.
Cancian added, “I think we take all of those off. Whatever constraints we have on Ukraine forces—and I think we have some restrictions.